eLearning for Everyone
The guiding principles around accessible eLearning come from what’s known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines or WCAG (in the US the guidelines for accessibility are known as Section 508). Following these guidelines will make our content accessible to a wider range of people with disabilities but they’ll also often make our content more usable to everyone in general which is really what we need to be thinking about.
As I travel around the country delivering Storyline 2 training, I usually ask whether people are factoring in accessibility in their eLearning module design. From the responses I get, those working in the corporate environment either don’t know much about accessibility or aren’t required to do anything about it and for those working in government it’s something they need to include as part of the design.
WCAG 2.0 is a stable, referenceable technical standard comprising of 4 principles and to comply with WCAG, anyone producing online content must ensure that it is:
Principle 1: Perceivable – This means that users must be able to perceive the information being presented – it can’t be invisible to all of their senses.
Principle 2: Operable – This means that users must be able to operate the interface (the interface cannot require interaction that a user cannot perform).
Principle 3: Understandable – This means that users must be able to understand the information as well as the operation of the user interface (the content or operation cannot be beyond their understanding).
Principle 4: Robust – Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.
To help remember these principles, think POUR.
There’s also 12 guidelines that are organised under these principles and for each guideline, there are testable success criteria, which are at three levels: A (the minimum), AA (more enhanced), and AAA (advanced compliance). The guidelines and success criteria lay the foundation necessary for anyone to access and use Web content. They’ll help you to ensure that everyone can access your learning experience.
There’s two factors that contribute to creating accessible eLearning. The first is the authoring tool itself and generally can do things like:
- Allowing content to be navigated by using the keyboard
- Allowing us to put alternative text on our images
- Allowing for the screen objects to be read by a screen reader
But in addition to that, and more importantly, our design decisions impact heavily on the level of accessibility (and therefore useability) of the module, for example:
- The types interactions we include
- Colour combinations we use
- Fonts/typefaces we use
- What we use for alternative text
- The language we use and the way we write
- The layout of our screens
After all, authoring tools don’t build eLearning by themselves they require human input and design. So many of our decisions can impact on accessibility for our users.
Accessibility is a big area and there’s lots to learn and I’ve certainly learnt a lot about it over the past 18 months. Here’s some resources that contain practical advice on incorporating accessibility into eLearning design (click on a title to view):
A guide showing all of the principles and guidelines and what you need to do to meet them.
It’s Not Just About Compliance: Accessibility in eLearning by Jane Bozarth
In this post from Learning Solutions Magazine, Jane points out that accessibility goes beyond those with disabilities.
This ebook comes from Articulates E-Learning Heroes Community and provides some practical steps you can incorporate into your eLearning design.
Do’s and Don’ts on Designing for Accessibility by Karwai Pun
This post contains 6 posters developed by Karwai showing the dos and don’ts of designing for users with accessibility needs including autism, blindness, low vision, deaf or hard of hearing, mobility and dyslexia.
Making eLearning Accessible for Everyone (video – 31mins)
This was a presentation I gave at LearnX where I spoke about accessibility and some things you can do in Storyline 2.
An organisation called WebAIM (Web Accessibility In Mind) has lots of useful articles and tools to help create accessible eLearning:
If you have any more useful resources or tips on creating accessible eLearning, please share them in the comments below.
Image source: Shutterstock